Dear, Mr. Barthes: A Open Letter from Michel Foucault, based on What is an Author

Note: This brief discussion is written in a form of a letter of what would look like if Michel Foucault tries to write to Roland Barthes in a letter a brief summary of his essay What is an Author.

Dear Mr. Roland Barthes,

I heard about your essay ‘The Death of the Author‘. Well, it’s well-explained & well-written, but I felt there were some flaws in your essay. You may want to read my defense of the Author in my essay ‘What is an Author‘, but I can summarize it in this letter.

As we all know, the Author has a presence throughout his  or her works. You said that it hinders the reader’s way of interpreting any work, and that the author must ‘die’ for the real reading & writing to begin. Good point, but I think it’s impossible to take the Author away.  For me, the Author’s presence is a sign of power. One may ask, ‘what would allow the Author to exist?’ Well, just try to look & analyze the author’s function, how it is circulated and attributed & the kinds of discourses. But there’s the catch: the Author function isn’t universal nor constant, as many would believe.

Taking in historical context, the reason for the author being accredited for a work comes from the Middle Ages, as the sign that validates scientific writings, though it also may applied to any literary work, though I doubt that. People even back then & the ancient times up until the 17th & 18th Centuries don’t know who wrote the stories, myths & plays, but they care about the texts for their contents, not who wrote that literary text. It still works the same effect in medical journals today. When looking at it in literary discourse, meaning depends on the Text to an author, however this has evolved over recent years; though this only defines the meaning we are looking for , for if we accept the author as the originator & the sole producer of meaning within a work, we can define & understand it more. Out of this comes the worshipful nature of the author as the ‘sole creator of meaning’.

Now I understand of what you meant about the death of the Author, but here’s my theory on this. Writing or creating of a piece of writing is a sacrifice, it is a voluntary disappearance into your work, hence the ‘death of the author’. While it does try to displace them, it only upholds the work & suppresses the real reasons for his/her death. We’re talking about ideas of ownership when it comes to work & how it was developed throughout history, as well as the ‘death of the Author’ & attempts to suppress their privileged position: I, however, don’t think that I should dismiss an Author’s importance & yet they’re not the ones who wrote their texts, though. The study of the relationship between the Author & the text, or the lack of it, is important & necessary: the attention to their name & their role in classifying works that falls under one Author & works that falls under another one, and so. Author function, for me,  reveals the convergence of the complex web of discursive practices. In other words, the Author is merely backstage; they’re in the text but they no longer play an active role in making meaning, the Readers play an important role for this task.

I’m sorry if I was a little too critical of your essay but that’s how I see the author function myself. I hope you don’t take my words as a hard blow. I hope that we can contact each other for an academic discussion soon.

Sincerely yours,

Michel Foucault


Leitch, Vincent B. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. New York City, New York, United States of America: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2001.

Is this a Work or a Text?: A Look at Roland Barthes’ From Word to Text

Is a Text an object, like a Work? The answer: no, as said by Roland Barthes‘ essay ‘From Work to Text’. One may want remember him from the previous entry in the Literary Theory Journal:

Roland Barthes made a distinction between a Work and a Text. He said that a Work is a physical output of the author; the Text a ‘field’ of meanings when a work of an author becomes a strand in a huge web of interpretation. He states that a Text is subjective to multiple interpretations. One may ask: Can a Work be separated from a text? He said that the Text is an event, it turns into a ‘field’ whereas the Work enters in & becomes.

The Differences:

* A Work has 2 meanings: the literal & the concealed, the Text goes beyond them.

* The Text is plural: The Work’s meaning is integrated into the Text. It ‘explodes’ with meanings & is highly inter-textual; in the Text, there’s no definite beginning & end.

* The Work’s source is the Author, but the Text doesn’t have a source, hence the author is merely a guest in a work.

* The Work is meant to be consumed by the reader, yet the Text is entangled with free play of collaborative reading, making the gap between the author & the reader narrower.

* The Text is always superior to the Work, but one must not disregard the Work itself.

Barthes said that one is able to lose oneself in the Text: linked to a kind of pleasure that’s not separated from (the Text) itself. Hence, it is turned into a social construction, turning the reader from being a passive consumer to one who can interact with the Text. He also mentions the Seven Propositions when reading a Text: Method, Genre, Signs, Plurality, Filtration, Reading & Pleasure .

The author have been interested with the difference between the two. And has been glad it had a good point describing about the Text & how it is different from the Work.  Good piece of work, indeed…

* Leitch, Vincent B. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. New York City, New York, United States of America: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2001.

Same Song, Different Renditions: The Application of Roland Barthes’ ‘The Death of the Author’ on the Voice of the Philippines Pilot episode

In the pilot episode of the Voice of the Philippines, one of the first contestants who made it into the competition is Darryl Shy who sang ‘Tatsulok‘, a song from a local Philippine band Bamboo. This is a surprise to one of the 4 coaches/ judges Bamboo Manalac, although Darryl went with Lea Salonga as his mentor.
In line of this, the author will use elements of Roland Barthes‘ essay ‘The Death of the Author‘ with the comparison of Darryl & Bamboo’s renditions of the song in mention. The essay is a proof of the essayist’s shift from Structuralism (his original background) to Post-Structuralism, which the essay of mention falls under.
Barthes once said that the author is a product of a culture, a reflection of a capitalist society concerned with the ownership & prestige of a certain individual. In this case, the author will name Bamboo as the author since he co-wrote the song, Darryl as the reader, the song as the text. He went on to say that the author doesn’t do the speaking, rather it’s the language that does the job. In other words, Bamboo doesn’t speak out, the lyrics stands as its own & speaks for itself for this matter.
Also, Barthes said that when analyzing a text, one must need to explore the writing & its structure, not finding the speaking voice. In this case, potential singing competition contestants should not focus on who’s singing the sing, rather they should analyze, or in this case, sing their chosen song as if they’re the ones singing them in the first place. In Darryl’s case, he sang Tatsulok as if he performed it many times.
Barthes went on to say that when a reader detaches a text from a specific source, this set the Text free from a ‘anchor’. Writing then turns into the very destruction of every voice and point of view. Therefore, the author dies in the moment of writing & ceases to exist. Amazingly, Darryl’s performance is far different from Bamboo’s rendition. Bamboo’s background on alternative and rock gave the song a rock tone everyone expects from a rock band, Darryl’s rendition gave it a softer, acoustic tone. Given this note, Bamboo dies a figurative death the moment Darryl sang his (Bamboo’s) masterpiece.
Barthes added that when the author dies, real writing begins, hence leading to the birth of real reading. He also said writing is a performance, not a documentation. The example here is a literal example of Barthes’ theory. He said that the birth of the Reader begins with the death of the Author. Here, Bamboo has to die a figurative death for him to listen Darryl’s own reading/ performance of one of his own songs (he mentions that at the beginning of the performance that ‘That’s mine’ in a sarcastic & joking tone) to see if he makes the final cut. The author of this is a witness of this, hence, her claim is true.
If a reader want to analyze the text, s/he must remove the author from the text for awhile, hence, a figurative death. Darryl had taken Bamboo from Tatsulok for awhile, therefore Bamboo die out figuratively for once. The author doesn’t mean that someone who made a piece of art or text dies the moment the reader takes him or her out of their masterpiece doesn’t really mean they die literally, it’s temporary. Hopefully, this application isn’t taken too literally to be understood. And hopefully, the two of them will agree with her with this article.

Both versions of the song:
* Bamboo version

* Darryl version


Leitch, Vincent B. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. New York City, New York, United States of America: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2001.

The Voice of the Philippines Pilot Episode (06-15-2013), ABS-CBN